Proposed Federal “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Proposed Federal “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Noah Severance, Contributing Writer

On Oct. 18, U.S. Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana proposed a bill reminiscent of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that restricted “classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.” Johnson’s bill, titled the “Stop the Sexualization of Children” act, instead focuses on the use of federal tax dollars for any sexually-oriented material or program for children under the age of 10. The bill’s claim is that school districts and institutions, such as libraries and museums that receive federal grants, are exposing children to sexually explicit material. The text contends that private organizations, as well as state and federal governments, have used federal funds and grants for “sexually oriented events like drag queen story hours and burlesque shows.”

As in Florida’s bill, the word “gay” is never used, but the bill’s definition of “sexually-oriented material” specifically mentions “any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects.” None of these terms are defined, and the only examples of inappropriate sex education curriculums that Johnson gives on Twitter and in a press statement are programs specifically geared towards supporting LGBTQ+ students. In a tweet referencing a Planned Parenthood statement explaining the importance of age-appropriate comprehensive sex education from kindergarten to 12th grade, Johnson writes: “the Democrat Party and their cultural allies are on a crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology at school and in public.”

Also on Johnson’s Twitter (not included in the press release on his website) is a link to a compilation of elementary school health class curriculums from Oregon.  The slide Johnson posted in the tweet is titled “Middle Parts,” and is from a curriculum that is “designed for kindergarten through 3rd grade classes and is developmentally appropriate,” as described by its creators.  

It reads: “Sometimes we feel silly or nervous talking about our middle parts. That is ok. Today we are being scientists to know about our bodies.” The curriculums shown in the document cover themes including privacy, body parts, and gender identities, stereotypes, and expression. Activities include labeling  a diagram of male and female genitals, asking “what’s a part of your body you really love?”, and practicing using new pronouns.

The other target of the bill, sexually-oriented “events,” are described as including drag queen story hours, burlesque shows, and drag shows. Johnson’s press release cites a drag queen performance for children funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and drag shows for military families being funded by the Department of Defense. He also accuses the DOD of “incorporating radical gender ideology” by linking a report about “woke indoctrination at K-12 schools on America’s military bases,” which claims that critical race theory, queer theory, diversity, antiracism and other “left-wing activism” are being used to undermine the American way of life and family values.

If passed, the “Stop the Sexualization of Children” act will prohibit the use of federal dollars for any event, material, program, or other method of exposing sexually-oriented material to children under 10. Parents, who the bill notes “have the right and responsibility to determine where, if, when, and how their children are exposed to material of a sexual nature,” will have the ability to file a lawsuit if any entity violates this restriction, and if an organization commits more than one violation in a 5-year period they will lose access to federal funds for three years. The effects of the bill would be incredibly wide-reaching, impacting any organization that receives federal funding or grants. One concern raised was healthcare facilities, which have already faced restrictions surrounding care for transgender children. The lack of concrete definitions for what sort of material or event would be prohibited is concerning to many critics, as it leaves space for many accusations of wrongdoing.

Johnson currently has 36 co-sponsors of the bill, all members of the Republican party. It is unlikely to pass in the current Democrat-run congress, but with midterm elections approaching, the co-sponsors have been urging voters to support the bill by electing a Republican majority. Critics such as the Human Rights Campaign describe the proposed bill as the “latest cruel attempt to stigmatize and marginalize the [LGBTQ+] community” in an attempt to gain votes. GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ media monitoring organization, stated: “we need leaders who want to solve real problems, not bully innocent kids.”